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Angry Birds Birthday Party

Our project the night before.  I put a new twist on my cake making tradition.  I used to surprise each kid with a cake I'd craft for them.  The kids helped me create their personalized cakes this year.  Not as fancy, but much more memorable!

Our project the night before. I put a new twist on my cake making tradition. I used to surprise each kid with a cake I’d craft for them. The kids helped me create their personalized cakes this year. Not as fancy, but much more memorable!

A few weeks ago, Russell turned 7. I had decided that I was going to change the way we celebrated birthdays now that we are living a different life. Our old tradition of inviting all the family over was too painful and would create a tense environement. I decided to “let it be” when it came to family and my kids’ birthdays; I dec

ided to allow those who care about Russell to celebrate with him however they chose to. My gift to Russell for his birthday was to give him a party where he invited all the boys from his class over. (I did the same for Lucy, but that’s for another post.)

Russell has been into Angry Birds for awhile now, and it was a no-brainer when he chose that theme. Let me tell you, it was craziness, but it was alot of fun too! We had 9 boys in the house, and I think we had several sets of parents thankful for the break. Here are the pictures:

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Sweet Child…Where do we go from here?

I don’t know yet. But I’m getting there.  Do I have goals…oh yes I do.  Right now they are small and vague and allow for adaptation.  A giant earthquake has happened to my life, and I’ve cleaned up the mess. But I’m just starting to rebuild.

Lately I have been focusing on my life and how I want it to look.  My number one priority is my children.  The amount of stress I put on myself on a daily basis to do what is right by them is immense.  I’m simutaneously rewinding my life and moving forward, which would be much easier if I didn’t have three miracles to consider.  But I do have those miracles, and they are my compass, guiding me towards the right outcome.  I spend a lot of time reflecting on my childhood, my issues, and my challenges…so as not to burden my children with the same.  I’ve come to the realization that I will not be able to prevent my kids from having problems.  All I can do is stand beside them when they do.

All I can do is focus on getting myself on the right path, in order to set a good example for them.  All I can do is find and remain true to my values, and admit my mistakes when I don’t.  It’s all anyone can do.  I have to be strong, stick up for myself, and forgive others when I’m wronged.  I have to apologize to others and forgive myself when I do wrong.  And in both cases, after taking the proper action, I need to let it go.  So simple, yet so easily complicated.  In doing that I am doing right by my kids, and changing my family tree.

I teach my kids that having and expressing feelings, no matter what kind of feelings, is okay. But sometimes the actions we take while having those feelings are not okay and require apologies and amends.  I help them to focus on what they can do, not what someone else did.  In doing that for them, I reframe things for myself too.

Positive things can be gained from every situation, and motivation can be born in some weird places.  I’m learning to trust in and enjoy my journey, knowing that the destination will be as much worthwhile as the trip to get there.

In other, less worldly news, I shall update you on the details of my life:


  • Russell is in 1st grade.  Still as smart as a whip, he’s doing math problems and reading like a whiz.  He turned 7 last week (which involved an Angry Birds themed party and 8 other boys from his class) and he’s got several loose teeth which he takes great pleasure in grossing my out with.  He’s still quite the little farmer who enjoys his time helping his dad on the farm.  When he’s with me, he spends his free time wearing a path around the house with his bike or hauling his sisters around in the toy gator that Santa brought him.  He has several classmates that are neighbors, and they occaisionally run around together after school.  He’s starting to take an interest in sports, and he loves to gall my boyfriend, Bruce, about the Hawkeyes.  Although, Bruce has convinced him to be a Vikings fan.


  • Lucy is in 4 year old preschool, and she is a complete social butterfly.  I’m not sure where she came from, as she is as girly as a girl can be.  If you ask her what she likes, she will literally begin listing things  such as: dressing up, princesses, ponies, fairies, flowers, butterflies, jewlery, drancing, rainbows, ice cream, strawberries, Barbies, mermaids, nail polish, lipstick….etc.  She loves to draw and play with friends.  She attends dance class once a week and talks about it frequently.  She turned 5 over Christmas break, and held a pajama themed party that amounted 14 girls and 2.5 hours of girly craziness.


  • Hazel is three, and she will tell you that if you ask her.  She will also insist on reminding you that she will be 4 on her next birthday (which isn’t until July!)  She goes to 3 year old preschool, and has one friend there she talks about alot.  She also goes to dance and loves it.  I often catch her making up dances and singing along to her own music.  She is still a little mommy and takes care of multiple baby dolls on a daily basis.  She will line them up to read stories, put them down for naps, and put them in time out.  Her imagination is growing like crazy and she is a pile of fun.  She loves to give hugs and kisses, especially at bedtime, and she will always say “I’m going to miss you” whevever she’s going somewhere.  She has niknamed Bruce, “Brucey-anna,”  and he calls her “Hazey-bacon.”
  • I am doing the self-employed thing and loving it.  I don’t know why I didn’t come up with it sooner and on my own!  I found myself unemployed this fall, and was really in a conondrum as to what I was going to do that would still bring income and work with the kids’ best interests in mind.  Then a friend suggested house cleaning, and it was like a lightbulb went on!!  So, Cookie Cleaning Services was born.  I have always enjoyed cleaning, and I feel that I am quite good at it too. It was a natural fit for me!  Business has been steadily growing.  I couldn’t be happier working for myself, by myself.  I know it’s not for everyone, but I have found something for me that is rewarding and satisfying.


  • Yes, there is a special someone in my life.  He is a great person, and he always looks out for me.  Things come naturally for us. Although many in the outside world may not understand our relationship, it’s okay with me.  I’ve never felt for someone as sincerely as I do for him.  Our similarities and our differences compliment each other.   We have ups and downs, but no doubts.  He empowers me. He’s awesome with the kids.  I couldn’t ask for more.
  • I’m not doing any sort of volunteering or community stuff. But I’m sure that in time that will fall into place too.  The community I’m in is small. Everyone is welcoming, friendly, and tuned in.  I’ve never seen so much support for the school and the young people.  It’s good to be back “home.”  And it’s good to have a new start.

And yes, I know I’m still pretty rambly and unfocused, but I’m getting there.  Someday this blog will find its place and get its groove back. It’s just not going to be today.  So until then, hang on and enjoy this journey with me.  I promise, it will get better.


Eyes Open.

I’m sitting here with a “Health and Financial Support” application from the Iowa Dept of Human Services in front of me.  But I won’t fill it out.  I’ve thought about filling it out.  I mean, if I qualify, why not?  Really, why not??

Pretty much because I just won’t.  Just because I qualify doesn’t mean that I am unable to take care of myself and my children.  And that’s pretty much all there is to it.

So…I suppose I should hit the rewind button for those who have no idea where I’ve been for the past 6-8 months or so.  But hitting the rewind button isn’t even quite the right way to describe what has happened to me in the last year and a half.  It’s more like my life has evolved from VHS to DVD to online streaming.

Yes.  That would be a good metaphor of my life.  Evloution.  Opening my eyes. Waking up.  Getting unstuck.

Sometimes the emotions and memories of how I was living are so raw that I can’t even comprehend it.  I reflect on my past and for most of my life, I was wrapped up in pleasing others and working to uphold an image that was not me.  I took any amount of criticism I received, internalized it, and set out to prove my critic wrong, even if they may have been right.  Even if it was to my own detriment, even if it went against my internal compass.

I’ve realized that this first post is going to be very rambly and most likely cryptic.  But these are words that I must get out now.  I’ve not felt the urge to write until recently, but the need to express myself through writing is back with a vengenance, and I’ve got to let this pent up stuff flow before I can rein myself back in.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been so in touch with who I am.  I was lost for a long time, staking my life on others’ lives instead of listening to my own conscience.  It feels like I can breathe again, now that I am being true to myself.  It’s also a fight for me, every day I feel the pull to try a little harder for someone else instead of myself.  I fight what my inner self wants, for the sake of someone else.  I still do this every day.  But I am getting better at recognizing when it happens.  I’m not perfect.  I beat myself up.  I left myself down.  And then I beat myself up and let myself down for beating myself up and letting myself down.

But, I am carving out a life for myself.  MY life…that others will fit into if they are supposed to.  For a long time I truly believed that it was my job to mould myself into what others wanted me to be.  I truly believed that I could find happiness by fulfilling another person’s dreams.  I was so confused I didn’t even know I was confused!!

My mind was constantly overriding my heart.  My heart was still there, and it would well up at times and remind me that it existed, but my mind was always able to beat it back down.  I thought…”This is what my life is supposed to be.  I am supposed to be happy.  I appear happy. I’m working my damn ass off to be happy.  Therefore I am happy.”   But I wasn’t happy.  My heart was not happy.  It tried so hard to be happy in the surroundings my mind had created, but it just couldn’t.  There’s a sappy ballad that probably applies right about now.  Don’t know what it is…but there’s gotta be one.

Picture the fakest smile you can…you know what I’m talking about.  Those women who appear so happy that they’re about to snap and kill something? I was faking it so hard, I was fooling myself most of the time.  I was buried deep in denial.  Every time I felt like that denial was slipping away, I dug in even harder and tried to force myself to be happy.  I took on another responsibility, volunteered for another activity, entered into another new endeavor.

My heart was sending out warning signals.  But when I should have been backing up, slowing down, focusing more inward, and listening to my heart…I was instead pushing it down deeper, trying to stay on the path my mind had created for me.  To stay on the path that I swore would lead to happiness.

Counselors introduced me to the idea of codependence, but I resisted it.  I read about it, but I fought it so hard.  How can a person just be happy where they are no matter the circumstances?  That just seems impossible.  I believed that a person had to create their happiness, that things had to be just so in order for happiness to occur, that I had to control the world around me in order for it to be “ok.”

And I still get that way sometimes.  But it really doesn’t feel good when I’m in that spot.  And I recognize it, and I get out of it.  It’s been a slow process, one that I cannot fully explain.  I have slowly let go of trying to make things be a certain way, and I am accepting that things are just the way they are, and that it is ok for them to be that way.

I don’t know.  I’m sure this all sounds like a bunch of crazy rambling.  But you know, I don’t care.  It makes sense to me, and it helps me.  I have become a stronger, better person through my struggles.  I have become surer of myself.  I have also become more forgiving of myself.  I still struggle with seeing some of the bad things in my life as blessings in disguise, but I am trying.  Sometimes bad things bring good things we never could have imagined.  Mostly, I am at peace with my life and the path it has taken.

All I ever need to do when I get all twisted up is take a step back and look at all I have to be greatful for.  Appreciation.  It’s so hard to appreciate anything if you are not being true to yourself.  This I have learned the hard way.  Through mistakes and bad times.  But is there really an easy way to learn anything?

So, the school of hard knocks has dealt me a few classes lately.  In the past 18 months I have gone through a transoformation that I resisted for a long time.  I fought the inevitable end of my relationship with Justin for a good two years before I was even able to admit that it was over.  But, once I did, the healing began.  Sure, there was ALOT of pain involved.  And there was ALOT of mistakes, some of them with huge pricetags. I was sick and twisted up in ways I still don’t fully understand.  But slowly, and sometimes against my will, I faced up to the truth.  I got down on it’s level and stared the truth in the face, and sometimes it scared me so much I ran away from it as fast as I could.  But I never felt better until I faced it and admited to it.  Through it all there was healing and a return to being true to myself.  The further along I got, the better I felt, the more I was able to handle the circumstances I was handed.  I found inner strength by simply trusting my intuition and taking care of myself.

In future posts, I will analyze and reveal more about this transformation.  The details are deeply personal, and they affected a lot of lives.  There is still pain there, a lot of pain, and there probably always will be, but it’s transforming into a dull pain left by a scar as opposed to the deep pain left by an untreated wound.

I write to help myself heal.  I share my writing because I know that there are others out there who might be helped a little by learning about what I’ve been through.  I don’t always do the right thing, but I always try to.

Spending Money to Save Money. Farm Style.

It’s a funny thing.  Spending money to save money, that is.  As consumers, it’s easy to get sucked in by marketing schemes such as “buy one, get one,” or “spend $100 and save $25.”  I’m pretty sure if you posses a debit card, you are guilty of buying stuff you weren’t planning on buying  just to “save money.”  And most of us get home after doing something like that and roll our eyes when we realize what we did.  Well, spending money to save money on the farm isn’t quite the same, but it’s a similar concept.

Instead of tying our money up in a Washington bureaucracy, we gave some to this farmer, for his tractor. And he is going to turn around and buy another tractor with it, stimluating the economy in our own way. 🙂

Well, if you’re a business owner, chances are you’re familiar with an accountant and tax accounting, and you see where I’m going with this.  A couple weeks before the end of the year, Justin and I paid a visit to our accountant.  We had what’s called a pre-tax planning session.  Essentially, the accountant looked at how much money we had taken in (income) and how much we had spent on business expenses.  Take the income minus the expenses, and you have our taxable income.  Taxable income is what Justin and I have to pay our family expenses such as food, shelter, and transportation.

We don’t get much control over the prices we receive for our crops and livestock, nor do we have a lot of control over the costs of caring for those crops and livestock.  This means our taxable income varies wildly from year to year.  Some years we will make a lot of money, other years we will make no money, and some years we will lose money.  In the years we make a lot of money, it is advisable to spend it on business expenses before the end of the year, to reduce our taxable income and therefore our tax bill.  In the years that we make no money or lose money, we will attempt to sell some crops or livestock before the end of the year to give ourselves some taxable income.  It is desirable to try to keep our taxable income with a reasonable range from year to year.  At least, that’s our philosophy.

Well, this year was a good year.  A very good year.  Our income was considerably higher than our expenses.  Which means we had to spend some money or give a huge chunk of it to Uncle Sam.

Think of it this way…

Instead of getting a tax refund, you owe the government $10,000 in taxes on April 15th.  But, you could invest $7500 in your IRA or 401K and only owe $2500 to Uncle Sam.  Which would you do?  Invest the money and pay $2500 or just give the whole $10,000 to help reduce the federal defecit?  I have a pretty good hunch that most would choose to invest in themselves.

So….we purchased a tractor and grain cart as opposed to sending an exorbitant amount of money to our representatives in Washington and Des Moines.  Don’t worry, we will still have a taxable income and will be sending in a healthy chuck of money to take care of our patriotic duty to pay taxes as well as operate our farm more efficiently.

See Russell down by the tire?? The grain cart we bought is huge!! It holds one and a half semi's worth of grain!

Mud Season


I was listening to the radio today.  Its 60 degrees in March. In Iowa, that is noteworthy.  And its lovely.  To an extent.  Spring is my least favorite season after winter.  On the farm, spring should really be called MUD.

The radio deejay was going on and on about how beautiful it was outside and how much she loved spring.  My city dwelling facebook friends were gushing about sunny afternoon walks, chirping birds, and open windows. Don’t get me wrong, these are all great things.

While it seems that no one was noticing the down side of the thawing weather. I was.  I went shopping for extra tall rubbers to wear over my boots.  I darn near fell on my butt wearing said rubbers when slogging through a particularly thick patch of mud.  I pressed the four-wheel-drive button 3 times more than usual while feeding cattle, and my tractor’s windows are splattered with mud.  There is no point in washing my vehicle, as the gravel roads are a soupy mess just waiting to coat a freshly washed vehicle.

There’s another not-so-good side to spring, it’s effects on the livestock.  Rainy weather and wildly fluctuating temperatures are hard on animals who must endure them.  We do all we can to keep them comfortable.  We give them extra bedding and watch them closely for signs of illness.  We spend extra time keeping their pens as clean as possible.  But Mother Nature makes it an uphill battle this time of year.

So my prayer for the spring season goes something like this.  (Written in the form of an Irish prayer in honor of my heritage and St. Patrick’s Day.)

May the sun shine and the wind blow.

May the soil thaw and the puddles dry quickly.

May 4WD be a blessing in times of need.

May your rubbers be the only part of you that gets muddy.

May the snow leave gradually and not return until fall.


May your car’s windows stay clear and tires unstuck.


Celebrating Ag Week

A picture from our county's ag luncheon last year. A couple hundred people always turn out to appreciate agriculture, a good meal, and an opportunity to socialize.

This week many businesses and organizations will recognize National Ag Week.  Around here, all the local papers will have special ad sections where businesses can salute agriculture.  The area chamber hosts an annual luncheon where conservation awards are given to farmers and a local “friend of ag” is designated.  The FFA students attend an ag career fair where booths from ag banks to veterinarians can be visited.

Russell already contributes to agriculture, as a consumer of food. In the future, chances are he will work in the ag industry and contribute even more!

I personally like to take this week to appreciate all the businesses that I work hand in hand with as a farmer.  Equipment manufacturers and dealers. Livestock nutritionists, feed dealers, and feed companies.  Fuel distributors, mechanics, welders.  Accountants, lawyers, banks.  Just to name a few.

Also, there are my customers… the local butcher, the large meat processor, the
farmers co-op that buys our grain, ethanol plants, and cereal and food manufacturers.

And the crazy thing is that all of this boils down to the consumer. So many individuals working together to ultimately sustain each other. And THAT is something worth recognizing!

Farmers in Hawaii


USS Arizona memorial. An absolute must see.


Hammock on the beach. Paradise.


Kahua Beef Ranch on the big island.


A vanilla plant. Very delicate and expensive.


Yes. Almost $5 for a gallon of milk.


Horseback riding in Hawaii. Now checked off my bucket list.


On our way to the luau.


Hula dancers.


Itty bitty lizard.


Whale watching boat.

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